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" '

( )

Full stop or dot
Question mark
Exclamation mark
Double or single quotation
marks or inverted commas

What effect does incorrect punctuation have?

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" ' Double or single quotation marks/inverted commas

Double ("...") and single ('...') quotation marks or inverted commas (you can use either term) can be used in the same ways. Whether you use double or single is up to you.

You could use double for quotations and single for titles. This is what we do in Writing for University Courses. It can help the reader to see which are quotes and which are titles.

Whatever you do you must be consistent, i.e. do it all the way through your piece of work. This is partly because it looks better, but also to avoid the reader being confused.

The following describes two main ways in which to use quotation marks/inverted commas. For advice about a further use, see the Development Level.


You must put a direct quotation inside quotation marks. A direct quotation gives somebody's actual words e.g. "You are late". You do not use them for indirect quotes (a description of what somebody said) e.g. He said you were late.

In academic work if you do not put direct quotes inside quotation marks you can be accused of plagiarism (cheating). Go to References and Resources in the Main Menu for a link to 'Key Skills Online', which has a section on plagiarism.

Inside quotation marks you use the punctuation belonging to the words enclosed by them. The sentence surrounding the quote has its normal punctuation.


She asked "Where are we going?".

Drew and Bingham claim that "Feedback helps students become more aware of how effectively they perform a skill." (1996, p13).

Note. In academic work you must list at the end of your piece of work all the work by other people mentioned in your text.

To show titles

If you refer to a title (e.g. of a book or film etc.) in your text it should be clear that it is a title. You do this by placing it in inverted commas. In titles, main words usually start with a capital letter.


'The Student Skills Guide' (Drew and Bingham 2001) includes guidance on study skills.

Note. You must reference other people's work correctly.

Go to References and Resources in the Main Menu for a link to 'Key Skills Online', which has a section on referencing.

If you need to give a title within a quote, using double marks for quotes and single for titles can make things clearer.


She said "I thought 'Waterland' was a good book".

If you used double for both it would look like this.

*She said "I thought "Waterland" was a good book".

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004